Sunday, August 31, 2014

Silly Bird

Yes, this is a Shetland ewe examining a Pearl Leghorn pullet (young female chicken) who just happens to be in my egg bucket & on the way to the house. I came out to do my usual egg collecting when I heard one of the young pullets carrying on outside the back door of the old barn. I opened the door to discover the noisy bird perched on the edge of the water trough. It was squawking at the other bird who was barely keeping her head above water by standing on the small ledge inside the water trough. She was soaked from about the shoulders down. Her wings were spread out on top of the water but were beginning to weigh her down as they were getting wet. I pulled her out of the water, tucked her under my arm & went about my egg gathering. I set her down in the sunlight hoping that would help to dry her. Her friend went on about her business as soon as I pulled her out of the water. I gathered almost a full bucket of eggs & checked on the little one again. Even though it is a warm day, she was shivering. I decided I needed to take her into the house & dry her off well. As I walked across the barn yard, a few of the sheep came up to see what I was carrying. They often glance in my egg bucket but as soon as they realize that the bucket contains only eggs they usually walk away. This time my bucket was a lot more interesting. A few of the sheep stopped to nuzzle the pullet as I walked through their pasture.

Now, those of you who know me probably would guess that I am not a blow dryer type of gal. I wash my hair each morning in the shower & then let nature take its course. But we do keep a blow dryer because you never know when a lamb will be born on a cold night or a silly chicken will decide to fall in a water trough. I plugged it in & began to systematically dry the little bird from head to tail. I lifted her wings & heated her chilly skin. In a matter of minutes she was dry & looking a lot better. She will stay in the bathroom for a little longer until I am ready to gather another bucket of eggs but at this point it looks like all will be good.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

This Is Why

1) I always carry a knife in my pocket when I am at home. I never know who will need rescued. I used to always carry a knife in my pocket, period. But I often go into schools as artist in residence & coming in fitting their definition of armed & dangerous is frowned upon. I also have a good pair of scissors hanging on a nail in just about every building on the farm. You just never know. I even keep a tiny pair of stainless surgical shears for cutting little shreds of baling twine out from between the toes of chickens.

2) I walk the farm frequently throughout the day. This silly girl had only just gotten herself wrapped up in a mess of baling twine while sampling a new round bale that was not supposed to be eaten quite yet. She had not yet realized that she was going to be in trouble so had not started to struggle & pull at the twine that was still attached to a 750+ pound bale of hay.

3) We spend lots of hands-on time with our animals so that they do not panic when we do have to work with them. Many, in fact, will come running to us when they can or at least call out to us when they have a problem. I know it sounds hard to believe but it happens frequently enough that I know it is not just a coincidence.

It took me just a moment to pull my knife out of my pocket, cut a few wraps of baling twine, look the gal over to be sure nothing was still wrapped around a hoof or ear & then let her go on about her day. I also trimmed up the remaining bits of baling twine dangling from where she'd gotten into trouble.

Years ago we sat in on a lecture with a goat expert who started his presentation by stating that a goat gets up every morning & the first thought that goes through its little goat head is, "How can I kill myself today?". I don't think sheep are as intentional as our goats when it comes to getting themselves into trouble but that certainly doesn't mean they don't find plenty of ways to do it. Which is why we take this shepherding business quite seriously!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


We've been occupied with babies lately. We're up to 13 lambs as of just an hour ago. Here is the very latest little one. It is cool & rainy here this morning so she was a colorful little addition to the dreary day.
I actually noticed her because Regina, our oldest Anatolian Shepherd, was down at the edge of the pasture snooping at something. I couldn't see what was going on because of the drop of the hill in the pasture but I knew there was something I needed to investigate as Regina did not come up to the top of the pasture to greet me when I walked through the gate & down the hill. She is a good dog & quite pretty as well.
Once Regina realized that I was coming all the way down to where she was working she came to join me. I did have a chance to watch as she calmly helped the ewe clean her lamb. This old ewe was not at all disturbed by Regina & was licking on one end of the lamb while Regina gently licked at the other end. The lamb was trying to lift its little head but was being held down by all that licking. Once Regina came up & sat with me, the little one lifted its head & worked itself up to standing. It was poking around trying to find mama's udder while mama was still working to free it from the rest of its birthing mess. I decided to give the two of them a little more quality time together before moving them into the stable. I took Regina with me as I figured she'd helped quite enough. I went on to gather eggs while Regina parked herself up on the stable porch to oversee all the lambs in the barnyard. They are just going about their normal business on a cloudy day.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Just Working

The dog in the background is Baloo. He's just having a normal day at work. He is 3/4 Great Pyrenees & 1/4 Kangal & comes from good working stock.

We adopted Baloo from a goat farmer in North Carolina several years ago. He was a young dog & part of a litter that were much more accustomed to living with their goats than engaging with people. In order for us to purchase Baloo, the owner had to put feed out & jump on the dog that we'd pointed out to him. The big white furball did not want to be held but we just knew he would be a special dog. We loaded him into a kennel in the back of the car & headed for home. It was a fairly long drive so we stopped for a quick bite to eat. We got Baloo a plain hamburger & placed it in his kennel. When we got home the food was still on his kennel floor & he was laying silently next to it. He was too anxious even to eat. He needed to learn to trust us.

He spent the first few days with us in the house. He gradually warmed up & now is a friendly & loyal dog who does his job well. Although he can wander most of the farm, this time of year the best place to find him is near a lamb. He has his priorities well in order & we just adore him.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Really? How peculiar.

I was on my way to the back to gather eggs & noticed that another piece of one of the old pines had fallen. That happens regularly with the older trees, especially when the woodpeckers have been working at them. I hear the woodpeckers having a great time out there on a daily basis. Something about this hunk of branch caught my eye.
The first thing that crossed my mind was, "Oops, I think someone had best notify OSHA as it seems we've had a work related mishap." I looked a little closer.
These were not woodpecker colored feathers. I figured I might as well pull out whatever was inside. The hole was a little bigger around than a silver dollar & the bird was carefully wedged in. Here is what I found.
From the looks of it, the bird had been attacked on the neck, killed & shoved into the hole. I am suspecting it is the work of a squirrel. Squirrels are nothing more than fancy rats & we have had rats drag off newly hatched chicks & shove them into their rat holes. I believe a squirrel was probably storing this little catch for later in the same fashion that it would bury acorns. And the secret stash just happened to be in the rotten end of the tree branch. I guess that whole circle of life thing can make for an interesting little blog post.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Dogs In Snow

It is hard to believe that we had a 3 day snow & sleet episode last week as our temperature was 75 yesterday. I went back & pulled out my favorite pictures of the dogs in the snow. Again, no explanation needed - just browse on through.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Some Interesting Weather

We had our second snow episode in the Upstate last week. We were fortunate to only get snow & sleet followed by a small earthquake on Friday night. We never even lost power so I spent most of the down time having fun taking pictures which I will simply share with you. They pretty well speak for themselves.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Just another dreary day?

I woke up shortly before five this morning & was thinking about the fact that I needed to write a blog post. We have had dreary wet weather with an occasional sunny afternoon. I knew if I took pictures around the farm most would show beige, brown, white sheep on beige, brown pastures. I thought perhaps to brighten things up I should take a few pictures of the latest spinning & dyeing projects for a little color. I just really wasn't feeling it today.

As I was getting out of the shower, Al came in from the morning chores to announce that he had found a pair of twin Romney ewe lambs that had been born sometime in the very early morning. SO... here's the dreary pictures from today but I will follow them with a few new baby pictures.

And here is the sweet little family. Still not a lot of color but I figure the cuteness makes up for that.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Winter Weather

I am originally from Ohio so have no problem with winter in South Carolina. We do have an occasional interesting episode. Yesterday snow was predicted & it started coming down shortly after noon. It was 32 degrees when the snow started. I scurried around outside & refilled water troughs then drained the hoses I used. I also fed the dogs a little early & gathered my first round of eggs. We were actually seeing snow on the ground in about 2 hours.

I had been in touch with a friend whose husband had to travel west for a family emergency. They have a single cow & the husband had arranged for a young man to care for the cow for the 5 days he intended to be gone. Because of weather throughout the country, his flight had been delayed for a few days. He got word that his flight would be delayed one more day & that the cow had just eaten all of its hay. I offered to bring some over then called my sweet husband to ask if he could come home from work a little early so that we could do that before the roads got bad.

We feed round bales so decided it would be easiest just to take him the inner core of a round bale. Our sheep needed more hay in their pastures so Al stripped the outer core of the bale. We were hurrying as the roads were icing up & we wanted to get over there & back before dark. I ran ahead of the tractor, opening gates to the pastures that needed hay. I also took a few pictures. Those of you who know much about farming will see these first pictures & think, "This is how you end up as part of show & tell at farm safety camp." I would not recommend this to everyone but Al is spry & the tractor is well weighted. The footing was slick as the snow was falling.

Once we were down to the core of the bale, Al loaded it into the truck & we took off for what should be a less than 20 minute drive.
It took us a solid half hour. We were taking back roads & the trees protected the pavement from some of the snowfall. At the same time I was on the phone with the woman who owns the cow. She was trying to get home from work & was on a main road that was just a mess with folks sliding into the ditches.

When we got to her house, we quickly unloaded the hay near the driveway & then used a trash can to carry a few loads down to the cow. The last thing we wanted was to get the truck stuck trying to drive the hay down to the pasture. We managed to complete our task just as it began to get dark.
We made it home in half an hour. I think we were best staying on the back roads as we barely saw half a dozen other cars. Our friend called us when she finally got back home. It had taken her an hour & forty minutes to complete her usual less-than-half-an-hour drive. She was just thrilled to know that she was safely home & that her cow was happy.

Our sheep don't seem to be particularly concerned about the weather. They know they will be well fed & also have plenty of shelter should they choose to use it.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A Little Work

I have not quite gotten back into a routine since the holidays. One of the things that is taking a lot of my time is our 17+ year old dog, Amanda. She is a sweet old lady who is still quite alert but has physically declined to the point that I spend a lot of time carrying her out to the bathroom, bringing her food & water & readjusting her bedding. She really does nap a fair bit of the time but also needs plenty of attention. We adopted her from a shelter in Jacksonville a few years before we moved here. She is the last of our creatures who made the move with us 15 years ago.
My sweet daughter-in-law also went back to work at the hospital 10 weeks after our first grandbaby was born. I am so fortunate to be staying with Jane for a day or two a week. I resist the temptation to post lots & lots of baby pictures so will only share a single one from this week. Jane has learned that she can actually aim her little fist & grab things. So far, that seems to be a great way to spend time.
Our weather has been a little crazy. We have gone from single digit cold weather to temps in the low 50's within a single week. I need to do more dyeing but it is a little tricky when the dyed roving freezes on the line before it even has a chance to begin to drip dry. I simply kettle dyed this but it spent 3 days on the line before it was ready to spin. The first day it froze so firmly that it could have stood up on the table on its own. 
It did spin up a bit more orange than the wet roving looked like it was going to be but I am still happy with it. It is on the right. The work on the left is from some roving I'd dyed all the way back in October but pitched in my stash & managed to lose for a while. I am pleased with the way it is spinning up.
I have decided to discipline myself to spin for at least an hour a day, even if it means I spin up some white roving to dye after it is spun. It is hard to believe that market season will be here before we know it.